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Lymphedema Pt. 2

May 26, 2023

Welcome back to UHC’s House Call on WDTV. Ginny Vincent, Occupational Therapist and Certified Lymphedema Therapist at United Rehab, talks about what you need to know about lymphedema.

1). Are there various stages of lymphedema?

There are three stages of lymphedema – ranging from mild to severe – which characterize the condition:

  • STAGE ONE (MILD LYMPHEDEMA) During this phase, tissue is still in the pitting stage. When you press an area with your finger, it indents and holds the indentation briefly. Usually when you wake in the morning, the area looks normal. As the day progresses slight swelling can occur.
  • STAGE TWO (MODERATE LYMPHEDEMA) The tissue now has a spongy consistency and is nonpitting. When pressed, the tissue bounces back without any indentation. Fibrosis (formation of fibrous tissue) begins at this stage, marking the beginning of limb hardening and notable swelling.
  • STAGE THREE (SEVERE LYMPHEDEMA) At this stage, swelling is irreversible, and the affected area grows large. This tissue feels hard (fibrotic) and unresponsive.

2). What are some treatment options to consider?

To treat lymphedema, therapists move accumulated fluid out of the affect areas. This process is called complex decongestive therapy (CDT). It is based on compression bandaging, exercise, and manual lymph drainage – a form of massage that consists of rhythmic strokes that stimulate lymphatic vessels to contract and encourage lymph flow. Skin care is also an important part of CDT.

If skin isn’t maintained, lesions can develop that allow bacteria to enter an already immune-comprised system. This produces additional lymph system destruction. However, CDT treatment helps maintain skin. Swelling usually decreased in four to 14 treatments over two to four weeks. To further reduce swelling in the arms, patients wear compression garments.

3). Is therapy for lymphedema covered by insurance?

Following an initial evaluation by a certified lymphedema therapist, treatment recommendations will be made.

Most health insurance plans provide coverage for lymphedema treatment with a physician referral. I recommend you check with your insurance company.

This content was originally posted on the WDTV News website here.

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